Monday, October 27, 2008

Girls 2 Boys 0

I've been mulling on structure recently. As you know I'm currently in the agonising process of writing another screenplay. Why agonising? Well, because as anyone who writes will tell you... we'll do anything to avoid writing. Making coffee and tea are the favourites but we have all sorts of other tricks - 'researching' (surfing the web), 'checking source material' (watching old movies), 'housekeeping' (doing other stuff like writing blogs) 'letting things sink in before committing them to paper' (training) and so on.

A regular favourite amongst screenwriters though is reading books on screenwriting. Usually these have titles like 'From Script to Screen', 'The Hero's Journey', 'Making a Good Script Great' and my current read 'Your Screenplay Sucks'. Usually these offer the opportunity to do nothing more than delay the tap tap tap of keyboard activity for another hour or so but sometimes... just sometimes, they can throw up a useful nugget of advice.

One such piece this week, garnered from 'Your Screenplay Sucks' was to use the early stages of the writing process to forget about structure. Just have fun with your mind... see what your characters do. Commit their actions only to a series of index cards and, if things aren't working, throw them away and start again or have them do something else. Don't worry about what goes where, simply enjoy the creative process. Worry about your story structure only when you've exhausted the process of scribbling and drawing mind maps and seeing what happens if a meteor carrying alien life form hits your character's village (now there's a thought!).

So that's what I'm doing and it's very liberating.

And not a little fun.

And much better than writing.

Or working.

But structure plays a huge part too in my Ironman training. So it's good to have a period when I'm training without a particular agenda. Yes, I have the Luton Marathon at the beginning of December, but mostly I'm doing what I like, when I like and paying no attention to how many hours I'm doing or what the purpose of each session might be. It's resulted in a really enjoyable period of training and will, I'm sure, set me in good stead for the structure of my Ironman training which commences proper after Christmas with, once again, my coach Mark Kleanthous guiding me through six months of sweat on the way to Frankfurt on July 5th.

Ironman's not only pain and suffering though, it's also a very inclusive and sharing community of athletes. Along the way I've been lucky enough to make some new friends, none finer than Tom and Helen who I first met at Ironman Austria 2007. Tom and H are taking on the formidable Ironman Lanzarote this year, with Ironman Switzerland thrown in for good measure seven weeks later. They are both top athletes and - all things being equal - next October should see them at Hawaii having qualified for the world championships.

That is then, though and this is now. In what is their month off training, Tom and H popped down for the weekend carrying a bag of Betty's Fat Rascal scones from Betty's Tea Rooms (one of our favourite bike stops when I go up to Yorkshire to cycle with them). Being in our unstructured phase, we did what we pleased which involved movies, chocolate, coffee, Wii, Sunday papers, log fires and loads of chilling out. I also took them out on one of my favourite runs, an easy 8 miles over some tough hills including Ivinghoe Beacon, where we watched the sun set over England's green and pleasant land.

On Sunday we went for a swim along with Alice (my youngest daughter) and, once we'd scared the bejesus out of the swimmers in the pool's 'fast' lane Tom decided we should have a girls v boys race. Being Tom, he quickly devised a handicapping system which saw a best of three race being won by the girls 2 - 0 with Alice holding off her dad in the final strokes with a Phelpsian lunge for the wall.

Which accounts for the girls looking very pleased with themselves in today's photo.

But it was a great weekend and already I'm fired up for the season ahead. As ever, I'll be feeding off their training and success and, if you're interested in their journey, you should follow their blog here.

So, all in all this week's (unstructured) training looked like this:

Monday: 17 mile run at 2 hrs 25 mins
Tuesday: Recovery Day
Weds: 2.5km swim (4 x 500m finishing with 10 x 50m on 1 minute each)
6 mile run at Tring Running Club including 4 x 6 minute miles with 3 mins recovery between each.
Thurs: 5.6 mile 75% heartrate run
1 hour swim drills with Team MK
Friday: 1 hour 25 mins fixed gear bike ride (34/19 gear)
Saturday: 7.6 mile cross country easy run
Sunday: 45 mins swimming

All in all, a most enjoyable week.

Film quotes now and I can tell I'm going soft. Last week's was far, far too easy, spoken by WILL SMITH as Captain Stephen Hiller in INDEPENDENCE DAY. Well done to Gabriel, Alex, Rob Q, Ian West and everyone else who spanked my behind on that one.

Try this on for size:

"I see all this potential, and I see squandering. God damn it, an entire generation pumping gas, waiting tables; slaves with white collars. Advertising has us chasing cars and clothes, working jobs we hate so we can buy shit we don't need. We're the middle children of history, man. No purpose or place. We have no Great War. No Great Depression. Our Great War's a spiritual war... our Great Depression is our lives. We've all been raised on television to believe that one day we'd all be millionaires, and movie gods, and rock stars. But we won't. And we're slowly learning that fact. And we're very, very pissed off. "

So, I must leave you now and go write...

or maybe I'll make a coffee...

Toodle Pip...

Monday, October 20, 2008

Farewell My Summer Love...

The cold winds of winter howled through my heart and I knew it was time. She'd been a part of my life for only a matter of months but already she'd changed me... made me a better man.

So I hung her up on the wall...


Sure I did... Hung her up on the wall, not to be removed until Spring 2009. Yes, saturday afternoon saw me doing my 'domestics' in the bike department. I bagged up my HED JET race wheels, put the training wheels on my beloved Cervelo P2C, cleaned the frame, oiled the chain, deflated the tyres and placed her gently on one of my bike racks, where she'll stay until the weather perks up next year.

But every cloud has a silver lining and I took down my Specialized Allez Road bike and prepared it (notice no gender for the second favourite !) for winter. My racing tyres were finally discarded to be replaced with Contintental Winter Tyres. The clip on tri bars came off and the whole bike was cleaned and oiled ready for a winter of hard yards. I took the 'Spesh' out for a spin and have to say it was good to be on it again. I'm quite looking forward to having a dedicated road bike again rather than the time trial bike.

Anyway, I guess I'm prepared for winter.

So... apologies for last week. Frankly I just wasn't in the mood. I was feeling a little grumpy and tired, having begun to increase my road mileage and the last thing I wanted to do was type out a blog. And ... hey... it's not compulsory. So I didn't.

But I feel refreshed and invigourated this week and - people - 'tis good to be back with you. What have I been up to the last couple of weeks in terms of training? Well, I've certainly been running. Most days I've been on the road doing no less than 6 miles. I'm very comfortable over 12 miles now and have been rattling a few of those babies off. Longest has been a 15 miler which was, frankly, tough. But I'm going to stick at it and - though I think 3:30 at Luton might be a tall order - will see what the day brings. I've still got five weeks or so of training so I'm hoping my previous fitness will click in at some point.

I've also been mountain biking with my mate Colin. Last Tuesday saw a two hour ride over and around Whipsnade and Dunstable Downs, finishing on Ivinghoe Beacon with Colin, Alex and Jo. Top riding and great for those bike handling skills.

I've been knuckling down on my film script, getting a handle on the story and working through some scenarios with my friend and fellow script writer, Jonny Kurzman. Jonny would be the first to say he's no Ironman but he's the Mark Allen of scriptwriting and his ideas help a lot.

In fact it's good to have someone to bounce ideas off. Alex was a great sounding board for my previous idea which - as detailed in a previous post - is currently resting on a shelf, much like my beloved Cervelo.

Other news? Well, we've changed Fiona's car which, after seven years I think she was long overdue for. We now have another BMW in the family - this time a 1 series. We also have a wonderfully reliable Volkswagen Golf to sell so - if anyone out there is looking - you can find details here.

Erin and I chilled yesterday and watched a movie - GONE BABY GONE - which is Ben Affleck's directorial debut. If you like your movies dark and dangerous, I can thoroughly recommend. I was mucho impressedo by Mr Affleck's work. The reason we were chilling together without Fi and Alice was that Alice and her best mate Molly were at the preliminary auditions for BRITAIN'S GOT TALENT in London's Covent Garden. Both of my girls are very artistic and theatrical (frankly, we're just not a maths kind of family) and whilst Erin is an extremely talented actress, Alice is a full on, force of nature showman. Or showwoman. Whatever, she and Molly formed a singing duet called 'Blonde Ambition' and sang Leonard Cohen's 'Hallelujah' for a producer-type. Watch this space for news of their progress. Or not, as the case may be.

You tried hard on the last film quote and, frankly, I'm disappointed. Disappointed you didn't recognise one of the most touching quotes from one of the funniest movies ever made...

"You like boats, but not the ocean. You go to a lake in the summer with your family up in the mountains. There's a long wooden dock and a boathouse with boards missing from the roof, and a place you used to crawl underneath to be alone. You're a sucker for French poetry and rhinestones. You're very generous. You're kind to strangers and children, and when you stand in the snow you look like an angel."

bears repetition. It was, of course, spoken by BILL MURRAY'S character, PHIL CONNORS, to RITA played by ANDIE McDOWELL in the magnificent GROUNDHOG DAY.

Okay... take a peek at this and see if you know where it comes from...

"Y'know, this was supposed to be my weekend off, but noooo. You got me out here draggin' your heavy ass through the burnin' desert with your dreadlocks stickin' out the back of my parachute. You gotta come down here with an attitude, actin' all big and bad... "

Well done to Boothy for completing the World Championships at Ironman Hawaii over a week or go. It sounded like a long, hard day at the office. I've yet to chat to him about it as he's still away recovering.

Well done also, to Liverpool FC, at last showing the character I've been waiting for for eighteen years. We may not win the title this year but at last we have a team that knows how important it is to the fans.

Have a good week, people...

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Mea Culpa...

I know... I've not done a blog this week.

And I'm amazed how many of you have emailed me to:

a. chastise
b. check that I'm alive.

Actually I'm amazed and touched.

I'm also chastised.

And alive.

And normal service will be resumed next week.

I simply didn't want to write the blog this week. So I didn't.

Or did I?

Monday, October 06, 2008

There's something I have to tell you...

Quite a few things actually.

Firstly... I woke on Sunday morning, exchanged several 5 am texts with Colin and we both decided that we couldn't be bothered to haul ourselves out of bed and go to our final Tri of the season, The Bedford Sprint. I figured torrential rain, wind and a smattering of first time triathletes could make for an unhappily memorable end to what has been a great season.

So that's confession number one.

Number two is that I'm not doing my sit ups and press ups. I know... I know... I said I was going to. But I just stopped, alright. One day I was doing them and a week later I wasn't. I have no excuses. Guilty as charged.

Confession Three? I've ground to a halt on my screenplay. Can't move it forward at all. Suddenly it's making no sense and appears to be the biggest pile of poo ever committed to paper. That's the way it goes with my writing. The good news is that I've picked up a screenplay I wrote a year ago in a bit of a rush and am exploring a way to make it work. I'm very fertile on this subject at the moment and am hopeful that this will be something I can drive forward. Funny how it works but it's always been the same with me. I've a wall full of ideas and sometimes, if one can't go forward it's time to pick up another. Anyhow... I'll keep you posted.

So that's my True Confessions this week.

I've also entered the Luton Marathon in December as an attempt to keep in reasonable shape between now and Christmas so have started to up the mileage a little. I'll keep increasing for the next few weeks and would like to think I can run Luton in a steady 3:30 or so, even though I'm not in tip top shape. My foot and ankle are still sore from their injury but I'm hoping this will fade.

Training this week was pretty good:

Monday - 10km run
Tuesday - 750m open water swim (last of the season!)
Wednesday - 9 mile run
Thursday - 1 hour taking the kids at Team MK swim session
Friday - 11.5 mile run
Saturday - 2.5 hours mountain bike with Team MK
Sunday - 5km run

I'm still training how and when I like and enjoying its freedom - though it was bloody cold in that lake on Tuesday. Congratulations to Peter Wade who braved it with me for his first ever wetsuit swim. And yah, boo, sucks to Colin Bradley for wimping out after 50m, complaining that it was too cold.

Film Quote time... thought someone would have got this. Actually, he did (Jonathan Mulcahy) but didn't post it on the blog. The immortal 'negative waves' quote comes from DONALD SUTHERLAND in KELLY'S HEROES.

This week is all to do with cold weather...

"You like boats, but not the ocean. You go to a lake in the summer with your family up in the mountains. There's a long wooden dock and a boathouse with boards missing from the roof, and a place you used to crawl underneath to be alone. You're a sucker for French poetry and rhinestones. You're very generous. You're kind to strangers and children, and when you stand in the snow you look like an angel."

Nobody picked up the extra points last week either. "Mrs Roosevelt" was the original title of the song "Mrs Robinson" which Paul Simon had written about Eleanor Roosevelt (check the lyrics... "we'd like to know a little bit about you for our files" etc). When asked to write for THE GRADUATE, he changed the title and - Bada Bing - a classic was born.

All my good luck space this week is devoted to one man... stand up, Boothy. Mark Booth of Team MK qualified at Ironman UK this year for the Ironman World Championships after ten years of trying. He flew off to Kona on Saturday and will race this coming Saturday on 'The Big Island'.

Nobody deserves to be there more than this exceptional athlete and top bloke.

Good Luck, Boothy...